Permanent Ink: My Tattoo Serves as an Important Reminder

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by Jamie Hughes |

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On July 10, I did something I never thought I’d do: I got a tattoo!

I’ve always been fascinated by body art, and any time I see someone with ink I admire, I always ask a ton of questions about it. Sure, I ask how much time it took and how much pain was involved, but I’m also curious about what led a person to get a certain image, and what it means to them personally.

I decided back in April that it was time for me to get my first (and probably only) tattoo, so after we returned from vacation, I took to Instagram and other company websites to begin looking for an artist that worked in the style I like. This was honestly the hardest part of the entire process because there are so many talented people out there in the industry these days!

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I opted for an artist who works with very fine lines and has a talent for creating images inspired by the natural world, and she and I worked together to create the chambered nautilus tattoo I now sport on the inside of my left wrist.

The process was very interesting. First, Brie, my artist, printed out the design on paper. It looked too big, so she sized it down. And when we agreed that it was right, she transferred the design to a stencil that she put on my wrist using a wet transfer method. Once it was dry, she inked over the intricate design and added a little shading to the outside to give it a more realistic look.

Tattoo artist Brie Gordon tattoos Jamie's left wrist.

Brie Gordon, an artist at the Equinox Art Collective in Woodstock, Georgia, works on my tattoo. (Photo by Jamie A. Hughes)

The entire process, from paperwork to home-care instructions, took about an hour, and it hurt a lot less than I was expecting. Granted, if you give yourself injections each week, have been through a spinal tap (and the headache that follows), or endured the treatment required by a superficial ulceration like I have, a few more needle sticks really aren’t that much to write home about.

So, you probably want to know what led me to get a chambered nautilus inked on my wrist. Well, there are several reasons.

First, they are fascinating animals. Second, their shells grow at a consistent rate, creating a logarithmic spiral that is almost a perfect representation of the golden ratio. Third, it is an example — like the crisp hexagons of honeycomb or the radial symmetry found in the petals of a dahlia — of something called sacred geometry, the belief that certain shapes and proportions are symbolic and sacred since they were created by the great geometer himself.

However, the most pressing reason I chose this image is what it represents to me. Chambered nautili grow throughout their lifetimes, which can last upward of 20 years. When they outgrow a space, they build a new one. Then they wall off the old space, creating a series of chambers connected by a tube known as a siphuncle. This tube allows the animal to push water or air into each chamber to maintain buoyancy.

Close-up photo of Jamie's black chambered nautilus tattoo.

A close-up shot of my new tattoo. It’s even better in person. (Photo by Jamie A. Hughes)

Since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I’ve undergone many changes. Some of them were forced, others were chosen, but each has helped shape me into the person I am today.

However, I’ve noticed that as people get older, they seem to become resistant to change. They fight it rather than embrace it and live smaller, more fearful lives as a result. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to stay curious, remain brave, and take risks regardless of my age.

The nautilus tattoo reminds me that change is good. It is natural and a part of life I should continue to embrace. The alternative — well, it just doesn’t sound all that appealing to me. (I should also mention that the chambered nautilus is part of the logo of the center where I am treated! How’s that for a little serendipity!)

MS is a part of me now, something to be embraced rather than pushed aside, and this was a way for me to remind myself of all the ways I’ve transformed and triumphed, as well as the change and growth I will enjoy in the future.

Do you have a special symbol that has helped you on your MS journey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments — especially if it’s a tattoo!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


John Klempa avatar

John Klempa

Cool tat. Me too at 53

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Thanks, John! And you just got your first too!? That's mighty rad.

Joyce Harley avatar

Joyce Harley

I appreciate all the information and stories on this site. My daughter has been dealing with MS since she was a teenager with a 5 year bout with cancer. She has secondary progressive MS and is now unable to walk. Her upper body is still strong enough to turn herself over by holding onto the rails of her bed and her cognitive abilities are still working well. Any info I can gather from sites like this help tremendously.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

I'm so glad we here at MS News Today are helping you. It's a great staff of caring people, and I'm proud to do what I can. Hugs to you and your daughter.

Azmeh Dawood avatar

Azmeh Dawood

For thousands of years tattoos have told our stories, celebrated our changes and denoted our histories. After diagnosis I got a neuron tattoo at the base of my spine to encourage electrical conductivity. Brilliant decision on your part ~ love the image and it’s mutlivarious significations. More power to you❣️

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Thanks, Azmeh! I love the idea of the neuron tattoo. Speak that goodness into the universe.


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